ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



June 2008



Should I Stay or Should I Go (Home)?

Written by , Posted in Feminism

Last week I came across this interesting article from The Women’s International Perspective.

Why U.S. Women Earn So Little Money: The Wage Gap Isn’t Getting Any Better

I’ve been sitting on this topic for a couple of days because it’s really complicated, and yet shouldn’t be. 

Since I work in government, I know (or should I say, can know) the salary for every single person in my office. I can see if I’m making more than people performing similar work with similar experience, or if I’m making less. I haven’t compared because I’m content, for the most part, with my salary.

When I was in the private sector, however, we weren’t allowed to know what other people made. Yet I wasn’t too concerned then, either. I’ve never been good at negotiating salaries, or even determining what a fair salary would be for me. I have always just accepted what I’ve been offered. Some have argued that this is part of the reason why women make less than men: we don’t negotiate. Funny story, though – according to studies referenced in the above article, women face repercussions when we try to negotiate. Good times.

Money is a huge issue, and equality is a tricky thing, especially when some men might think that by bringing women up to their level in pay that means they might lose something. I have my own savings, my own money, and a job that allows me to live sans roommates for the first time since college. If I were to get married, though, what would happen? Assuming I have kids – and that’s a topic for another day – what would happen? Would I be expected to stay home? Would my imaginary husband be in a field with higher earning potential, thus making moot whether either of us wants to stay home? And if things didn’t work out and we got divorced and I had to go back to work – what would my earning potential and experience be then?

Women choose to have children, so are women at fault for needing more flexibility (and thus often less responsibility and less money) than men? It’s a choice, and isn’t choice what women have been begging to have for generations? Here’s the problem – it’s still not much of a choice to care for children. It’s still not as socially acceptable for men to stay home with the kids while the women work. There was an article in the New York Times Magazine this week – When Mom and Dad Share It All. It’s an interesting look at attempts to share the load as equally as possible. The fact that this even merits attention in a national Sunday magazine shows it’s obviously not the norm.

How many guys around my age think they’ll end up working part time or quitting when they have kids? I do wonder what it’s like to have that pressure of being expected (by society, if not by your wife) to support a few people. At times I do think it might be nice some day to have kids and get to hang out with them. My mother worked really hard at home to make sure my sister and I turned out normal. She didn’t go back to work until I was in high school, and while I don’t think she resents us for that, I know I appreciate her for it.

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